Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on how to choose a grout color, or colors

What color(s) to grout a mosaic is a common dilemma. And a personal decision each artist needs to make based on their vision for the finished piece. This post is just some of my thoughts and by no means comprehensive.

I have a general rule that often helps me make the choice: blend the background, fracture the focal.

But, I break this rule regularly. Usually on realistic pieces when I feel that all the careful shading I have done on a focal will be lost if I choose a grout color that breaks it all apart.

That was the case with this little mosaic I did recently:
"My Shadow" (Print available)
I even briefly considered skipping the grout on the kitty herself but rejected that since I could see the substrate through the spaces. Additionally, my glue was weldbond which I don't feel would be lasting in Florida humidity if not protected by grout. As an aside- I am looking into smalti as this material is not traditionally grouted.

So, for kitty herself I actually used three colors of grout. Tea green for the irises, black for the nose and right eye pupil, and a natural grey for the fur areas. The natural grey is in between in tone to the light and dark fur tones and provided subtle contrast so she is still clearly mosaic but the pieces blend.

For the background of kitty, first decision was glass color and flow. I chose the pink as a compliment to her eyes and to emphasis that this sweet kitty is a she. The squares are a contrast to the irregular pieces used in the fur. Because of the blending of kitty with her grout, I felt I needed a grout color in the background that did not completely blend but that provided a very subtle contrast as well. Warm grey was my choice here.

To help with my decisions, there are a couple things I do.

First, I keep a box full of little cups and their wood stirrers that I have used previously to mix up grout. I label both the cups and sticks and use them to do a squint test.
Second, I will sometimes sprinkle a small amount of dry grout in an area to test the effect. The color of the dry powdered grout is about the same as cured grout in a finished project. You just have to remember to use safety precautions as you do not want to in-hail any of the grout powder!

There are a couple of online resources that can help to visualize different grout effects too:

Mosaic Mercantile, , has the grouterizer.
Choose the mix of color tiles similar to your mosaic, 16 choices, then choose from ten grout colors to see their effects. has a Grout Colour Simulator.
This one has seven different mosaic choices including a variety of different mosaic types. Then choose from 20 different grout colors including black to white shading in four different directions, fun!


"My Shadow" is in my private collection but a print is available on my page at Fine Art America:

All my available original mosaic art: 

I create original design silver jewelry too!! 


Lee Ann said...

Linda, that's a great idea to keep little samples of previously used grout so you can see at a glance what it will look like dry. I feel like the dry powder doesn't really give me a good sense of the final look - maybe it's the fluffiness of it that interferes with how the color will look. I think I'll start keeping the wooden stirrers I use instead of throwing them out!

Linda Smith said...

Yes, I understand what you mean by fluffiness. And even when I use just a tiny bit it sure seems to get everywhere! I do use the dry grout as a last choice and use my little cups and sticks the most.

Sashkale said...

Perfect constant problem!
Gorgeous cat!

Kathleen said...

Oh Linda, great tips. I like your grout in little cups with sticks.

Usually I can commit to grout color with dry grout test. This is a great second choice.

Thanks for sharing.

Linda Smith said...

Thank you Sashkale and Kathleen!

Kathleen- thinking on this I realize that I use the dry grout test especially when I make a custom blend. Like my last mosaic from my daughter's drawing -every grout color was custom on that one, lol.

Zds said...

Insanely cool!

Touch-O-Glass said...

Can you please explain how to apply multiple colors of grout? I have only done one color so far.

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Masking tape is my trick to using more than one color of grout with a crisp dividing line between colors. I use ordinary beige masking tape. I choose a color to start and mask off the border of that area, leaving just those spaces for that color exposed. Grout and cleanup that area and remove tape. Wooden toothpicks work great to cleanup any seepage. Wait an hour or more and repeat for the next color. See this post for some pics Focus of the post was grout shading but you can see how I masked off the other areas. I'll try to do a post about this soon- thanks for asking and hope this helps.